For Survival of Migration:
Or That Which They Cannot Devour
Let’s say your body’s a caterpillar, an accordion in scooch
among branches. Let’s say you crave; yes, you crave
the latex & cardiac glycosides; how you really crave carnage—
the deconstruction of systems—bite & suck between mandibles
& in the damage of cells, the milky toxin exudes, & you being
metamorphosis minded, believe in the announcement of names,
guts of you pull, pull toward the known unknown. When voice
resonates in you, you in whispers atop your dorsal wing surface
milkweed, milkweed, milkweed finds the tongueless tonguing
five petals, fused stamen filaments encircling a five-
membrane corona. O’ hair, O’ hood, O’ inner horn. How
you long for each—to imbibe poison, you become poison.
What you carry in crawl to pupa in your belly. Crawl of natural
defense. You wrap in your own bonnet, taper at abdomen, a pendant
of golden specks, a belt of earthly stars in ornament. Let’s say
you rest & transformation hollows, renders both form & ability,
then wake to wingspans & flight buried in your exoskeleton,
toxicity of milkweed—for those who imagine you in their esophagus:
the effects of toxins in limbs, in brain; to those who find you delectable,
exotic, cageable, containable: the sores of poison. Your migration:
to protect our story; an evolution to that which they cannot devour.
We don’t talk about
the fleas, the cat
named Baby on a leash
inside, the mice
or Baby’s longing for mice,
the switch to light the motel sign
we couldn’t touch, the washer
we couldn’t touch, the lawnmower
we couldn’t touch, you’re not
smart enough to work this, the tv
remote we couldn’t touch, 1966
Dodge Charger in metallic cobalt
on blocks inside the carport
with the collapsed roof
we couldn’t touch, the empty
room up the stairs—
first on the left—our uncle’s
seventies weights & collared shirts
we couldn’t touch, grandma’s fake
pearls, color of her skin, her Sunday
pearls she kept on the nightstand
we couldn’t touch, the old shower
jimmy rigged to work as a sink
& how we used a hose
to rinse a plate, the crack
of office window where my head
shattered, the sound
of glass falling in the ear, years
to fix, the lack of fix
in any vocabulary, the toilet
revving like a rocket ship
in the bathroom of seafoam green
tile & mildew & razor blade
between forefinger & thumb
for one more go home wetback,
the orange shag carpet
that made our bare feet squirm,
the living room below the stairs
we couldn’t enter, the story
of the pool table we couldn’t
touch a thing of power, the diner
closed & made into a living room
& bedroom & kitchen & bathroom
for four, specifically three
brown kids who won’t amount
to anything, the smell of must & lye
of his unwashed body, his leg whittled
to bone from atrophy, what sharing
a bed with my mother
until I was eleven means
to me now, how empty space
belonged to junk rather than
three children growing, how we all
grow out of something, how difficult
it is to say us, me, we, & really I mean
Mel, Felicia, Joe, the never-birthday
parties & thinking I had done
something wrong to never
warrant celebration, smell
of pilot light in winter jaw chatter,
smell of her hair when we kissed
her goodnight with the sun pedestalled
above the tree line, her knuckles
cracked & bloody & how we knew
what salve did but not why
she wouldn’t, the gravel parking lot
& how it expanded out into a sea
of town & sneers & corn &
steeples & whispers & fists &
faith & grit & stone of when
a human heart must, the hinges
on a screen door—slightly rusted
as a mantra—closing at my back
from a distance too far to measure,
too heavy to look back.
Dear Coyote
I stitch the stars in patterns of your chin, your knee cap, your rib, your gait: a constellation of absence. I map your body, a celestial cartography to understand my own echo, my own cave in the torso, cave of undoing. When you beat my brother’s face with a sack of potatoes, when he bruised & you drew the burlap back for blood, did you smell lilac, believe your fists made us into something beautiful? When you opened our mother with knuckles scented with other vaginas, did you believe in your gift, passed? I cup my breasts in the mirror & consider the tissues of violence; if I crack my neck, cleave at the thyroid & pull out the medulla oblongata, will I cross section the parts of you that continue to wound? I am a poor butcher & an even poorer butcher’s daughter. My fingers fail to sew you into being for each star a sun, in bleed of light, destructive & vitalizing. We both know this thread & needle ignite in each baste, each backstitch of form. We both hold the weight of ash in our lungs.